TITLE : Present Imperfect

AUTHOR : Eloise

RATING : PG13

DISCLAIMER : Joss and ME own Wes, and all things Angel. I'm only playing with them. I promise not to hurt them. (Well, maybe just a little.)

SUMMARY : Set during Season 3. Wes has a terrible decision to make concerning a book, a baby and a betrayal…

NOTES: This is the Prologue -  Chap 1 of 11 ( I hope!) The story starts as canon but will go AU pretty quickly. Chapters will be mainly Wes or Angel POV – with a few guest appearances!  The quotation below is by Matthew Henry from "The Earthly Paradise – the Hill of Venus"

PROLOGUE : Made to be Lost

"A world made to be lost

A bitter life 'twixt pain and nothing tost"

Connor kicked and stretched in the little cradle, made a soft kitten-like mewing sound. He hadn't yet developed the full blown cry of an older infant, Wesley noted as he went to the cot and lifted him very gently.

The baby wriggled against his shoulder, his tiny abdomen rigid with tension. Wes pressed his hand firmly onto Connor's back, and was rewarded with a deep burp that resounded through his little frame.

Almost immediately, the jerky leg movements stopped, and Connor snuggled into him, his dark head nestled beside his neck. Wesley was constantly surprised at the ease with which he handled Angel's baby. He had no experience of babies, no younger siblings, and when he had first held the newborn infant, he had been terrified of his own clumsiness.

But from that first moment, Connor and he had been completely at ease. So much so that Wesley could comfort Connor when no one else could. "The magic touch", Fred had called it, as he sat in his office, Connor fast asleep on his chest. That both pleased and annoyed Angel, who would sometimes appear in his office in despair, having tried to soothe Connor for hours.

"Here" he would say, thrusting the child at him in frustrated despair. "See if you can settle him"

Wes would take the child, sensing Angel's frustration, knowing the baby did too. He would wind Connor, or hum softly to him, and the child would relax against him, just as he did now.

"How do you do that?"

"He knows when you're uptight, Angel."

Good at reading his father's moods. As Wesley was too. Since Cordelia had gone off with Groo, Angel had been spending more time with his infant son. Which had been fine with Wes until he translated the prophecy. Now he was terrified to leave them alone together. Kept thinking up pathetic excuses to be with them. This morning at the doctor's surgery, for instance.

Connor's breathing had slowed, and Wes laid him gently in the crib, settling him on his back.

At the break in contact, the baby fussed a little, so he placed his hand on Connor's chest, and rocked the cradle back and forth with his knee.

"Cranky, huh?"

He still had that ability to slip into a room unnoticed. Or perhaps he was so absorbed with the baby he hadn't heard him. Angel came over to the cot and made to lift his son.

"No." Wesley heard himself say too sharply. "I mean, he's just gone over. Don't wake him." His tone now softly apologetic.

Strangely, Angel wasn't offended.

" That's okay. Was he fussing much?"

"Just a little wind"

Angel nodded sagely.

"He guzzled his last bottle. Kid's got some appetite."

He smiled proudly, as if Connor had done something wonderful. God, how could he possibly believe this man would hurt his child. He doted upon Connor, adored him absolutely. The prophecy must be wrong. It had to be.

"Find anything?

Caught in his train of thought, Wesley started guiltily and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"It's tricky. I've found lots of references, but they're from various sources. It will take some time to piece them together."

Not exactly a lie, but Wes could barely meet the vampire's eyes. How could he not know? Sense the anguish in his voice as he lied to him.

"You look rough, Wes."

Angel settled himself by the crib, took up the rocking rhythm that Wes had begun. Wes ran his hand across a strong beard shadow, didn't tell the vampire he hadn't been home last night.

"You should give the books a rest. Go out and get some air."

It was tempting, he had to admit. To leave the prophecy, the doubt, the guilt, and just escape. Then Connor mewed softly in his sleep and he knew he would not leave him alone with his father.

" It's fine, really. I'm just a little tired. I'll make coffee."

He busied himself in the small kitchen, emptying the old grounds into the sink. Not quite as soothing as making tea, but the ritual relaxed him slightly. Besides, he didn't want to be soothed. He needed to stay alert, thus a strong dose of caffeine was required.

With the flick of a switch, the heavy tobacco rich aroma of strong coffee filled the room. He found himself wishing for a cigarette, although he had never smoked. His father had ensured his compliance in avoiding that particular vice, when he had smelled smoke on his ten year old son's clothes.

It did not matter that Wesley had not been smoking, that it had been his best friend Simon who had swiped the cigarette from his father's desk, while Wes had simply kept watch. Guilt by association was reason enough for punishment. Not that Wesley had tried to explain.

He had learned early not to challenge his father's authority, knew not to talk back. It was  better to knuckle under and take whatever was coming, whether he deserved it or not.

His father saw things only as black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. Such concepts were mutually exclusive. Shades of grey did not exist in his world.

He knew what his father would say about his current predicament. It was obvious. An innocent child, and a creature capable of extraordinary evil. The solution was simple. The child must be removed from its father. He would not allow his judgement to be clouded by concerns such as pity, love or loyalty. He saw those only as weaknesses, with no place in the fight for the greater good.

Wes poured his coffee and drank it black. It burned his throat, setting an ache in his chest. He embraced the pain, as if any small self – inflicted hurt could somehow reduce the larger pain of what he was considering.

"Too soft, too weak,"

His father's scornful litany of his failures played in his head, his voice never clearer than in these times of self doubt, disgust and despair.

"Hey, blue eyes," Lorne stood in the doorway, watching him intently. "You been taking lessons?"

Wesley looked at him, genuinely confused.

"The dark, brooding, not talking vibe." Lorne moved his head in the direction of the lobby.

"You could give Mr. Taciturn out there a run for his money."

Wesley was desperate for him not to sense the turmoil in his mind. He swallowed his anguish, resolved to present a calm exterior.

"Um, sorry. Just working on a particularly tricky translation, you know.'

He believed him, of course, they all knew how he got with research. It used to annoy him, when they would leave him to work on his own, but suddenly it was very useful that no one wanted to help.

Lorne looked hard at him for a few more seconds

"Take a break, Wes."

He held out the coffee cup, a false, bright smile on his face.

"This is me, taking a break. Would you like some?"

Lorne sniffed the air suspiciously.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I like my caffeine hits a little less concentrated!"

He turned to leave, and Wesley felt a sudden irrational pang of anger that Lorne hadn't been able to read him. He was an empath demon, for heavens sake!  Couldn't he feel his despair?

For just a moment he wanted to share his burden, his fears for Connor's safety. Have someone tell him he was wrong, it was all a big mistake. For just a moment…

And then he knew. Standing alone in the tiny kitchen, empty coffee cup in hand. He made the decision. He would do his damnedest to disprove the prophecy, keep father and son together.

But if it was true, then he would take Connor away from Angel. He really had no choice.

The others wouldn't understand, they would try to reason out why Angel would never do such a thing. The problem was, there was no reasoning with prophecies. They simply were. So it was up to him to protect the child. And if that meant cutting himself off from the people he loved, then so be it.

With renewed determination, he returned to his office, closed the door, and picked up the telephone.